A photo of one of our queen bees (see how long her abdomen is compared to the worker bees?)
The queen is fascinating! As a growing larvae she is feed exclusively royal jelly. Royal jelly, with it's special proteins, is responsible for giving the queen bee a long, long life plus an elegant and large body, which make her very fertile.
As a new queen her first job will be to fight and kill any other queens in the hive. There could be an old, weak queen or one or two new queens hatched around the same time. The worker bees create queen cells when the pheromone of their existing queen is getting low, therefore at the end of her life.
The young queen will then take her virgin flight, mating with an average of 7-17 drone bees in mid air, she may take about 1-3 flights. She will have enough sperm (about 5-6 million) stored in her sperm pouch to fertilise all the eggs she will spend the rest of her life laying. She will not leave the hive again, unless she swarms, and will lay about 1500 eggs per day over her four to five year life.
The queen will determine how many worker and drone bees the hive needs. She will lay unfertilised eggs for drone bees and fertilised eggs for worker and queen bees.